Understanding neurological disorders

Dr Sarah Annesley is leading research that is shedding new light on the complexities of neurological disorders

Tracey Banivanua Mar Senior Research Fellow, Dr Sarah Annesley, is leading research that is

shedding new light on the complexities of neurological disorders.

“Neurological disorders affect one in six people worldwide. Most have no cure and are caused by largely unknown factors. Further, there are no simple diagnostic tests available with most cases being diagnosed after the disease has long progressed,” says Dr Annesley.

“The rates of neurological disorders are also anticipated to rise due to our ageing population, highlighting the urgent need for research efforts to be focused on understanding these disorders.”

Dr Annesley’s research team specialise in Parkinson’s Disease and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, more recently, Long COVID.

“Long COVID affects approximately 10% of people infected with the COVID-19 virus. Given the scale of the pandemic, a large proportion of the population will suffer from this debilitating disease,” says Dr Annesley.

“Approximately 50% of Long COVID patients are also estimated to go on to meet the criteria for a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis.”

“However, diagnosing Long COVID is difficult as no biomarkers have been validated and clinicians are not well educated about the disease, thereby delaying early and effective treatment.”

Dr Annesley has initiated a pilot study, funded by the ABC Scheme, to better understand Long COVID so that an effective diagnostic test and treatment can be developed.

“By examining the disease-specific changes in the blood of Long COVID patients, we have identified some promising biomarkers. We are now investigating if they can be used in the diagnostic testing of Long COVID.”

“Having these diagnostic tests will help greatly in avoiding a lengthy period of uncertainty for patients about their diagnosis. By understanding the processes and mechanisms of Long COVID, we can help to inform the development of targeted treatments as none are currently available.”